Even at Super Bowl and NBA All-Star Weekend, Kobe Bryant’s shadow looms large over LA

(Jonathan Fernandez/Medill Reports)

By Jonathan Fernandez
Medill Reports

LOS ANGELES — Super Bowl Sunday and the Rams taking the trophy on their home turf – it’s the one day you would expect LA to fully live in the moment. But someone was missing.

With the champagne flowing as the Rams celebrated their Super Bowl victory, wide receiver Cooper Kupp sailed into the sea of blue and gold for the Rams’ championship parade last month donning a Black Mamba Kobe Bryant jersey, a tribute to the city’s fallen idol.

“Kobe is synonymous with LA,” Kupp told ABC. “I feel it’s only right — there’s a championship, Kobe is a part of it.” 

Bryant played his entire career with the LA Lakers, winning five NBA championships. He died in January 2020 in a helicopter crash.

A week after the Super Bowl and almost 2,400 miles away in Cleveland, the NBA celebrated the league’s 75th anniversary on Feb. 20 by honoring the 75 best players in league history. The celebration took place during halftime of the All-Star Game, and although he had retired more than six years ago, and it’s been two years since his death, the player who drew one of the loudest roars from the crowd was Bryant. Those playing in the game were competing for the All-Star Game Most Valuable Player award, recently redesigned and renamed in Bryant’s honor.

As photos and videos surfaced of those among the top 75 talking, hugging and posing for photos, Bryant was conspicuous by his absence.

As Kupp said, Bryant is synonymous with Los Angeles. You can feel it as you listen to Los Angelenos describe what he means to them. You can see it in the artwork that graces narrow alleys throughout the city.

Below are just a few of the many murals in the LA area and quotes from fans he inspired that celebrate the life and legacy of Kobe Bryant.

Jonathan Fernandez is a graduate student specializing in sports media at Northwestern Medill. You can follow him on Twitter at @JFERN31.